Question: What is the difference between a liquor and a liqueur?
Both liquors and liqueurs contain alcohol, but the terms are not interchangeable.
Answer: This question confuses many, and with good reason. Many liquors are available in flavored forms nowadays. Both liquors and liqueurs contain alcohol, but the terms are not interchangeable.
In general, liqueurs are sweetened spirits with various flavors, oils, and extracts.
Liqueur alcohol content can range from a low 15 percent (30 proof) to 55 percent (110 proof), so potency is not a distinguishing factor. Rum, whiskey, brandy, and other liquors can serve as a base spirit for liqueurs. Cream liqueurs have cream added, while créme liqueurs are much sweeter, likened to a potent syrup. Our ancestors referred to liqueurs as cordials, and they were often used medicinally. Grand Marnier® is a delicious example of an orange liqueur which makes a flavorful ingredient in many recipes.
Liquor is an alcoholic beverage made of grains or other plants which are fermented into a potent drink. Although sugar is generally used in the fermentation process, the resulting liquor is not sugary sweet. Liquors are nowadays available in flavored forms, but they are not sweet to the palate. The flavor is usually added after distilling through a steeping process, much like how vinegars and oils are infused.